February started out with a bang. Everything I read was excellent plus I was working on two series: Romney Marsh and Arcane Society.
A Gentleman By Any Other Name by Kasey Michaels *A*
The first book of the Romney Marsh series. One of the few series I actually started with the first book. LOL Really good historical. There are seven adopted children and one natural child of Ainsley Becket and each one gets a story. This book is about the oldest, Chance. He was a teen when rescued by Ainsley but is now an adult who works for the war office in London. All the characters are fully fleshed. He has hired Julia to be nanny to his daughter and must travel immediately to Romney Marsh to investigate smuggling for the war office. He's walking a fine line because he knows there's probably smuggling going on but family loyalty outweighs loyalty to country. Julia is originally from this part of the country and is very familiar with the smuggling routine. It takes a while but finally the family trusts her. There's an ongoing theme in the series where a little more info about Ainsley's background comes out in each book.
The Dangerous Debutante by Kasey Michaels *A* (Romney Marsh book 2) This is Morgan's book. She's a fiery temptress who's mistaken for somebody else's mistress when she first meets her hero, Ethan, who is an earl.
Beware of Virtuous Women by Kasey Michaels *A* (Romney Marsh book 3) This is Eleanor's story. She's quiet but has a way of making things happen. She goes to London pretending to be Jack Eastwood's wife in an attempt to find out who is attempting to ruin their smuggling operation. Jack has worked with the Beckets for years but hasn't really noticed quiet Elly before. When they are thrown together he begins to appreciate her and, of course, there's your HEA. There's more about her heritage and even more is revealed about Ainley's background.
A Reckless Beauty by Kasey Michaels *C* (Romney Marsh book 5) This is Fanny's story. She and her adopted brother, Rian, have been inseparable until he goes to war following Napolean's escape from Elba. She follows him and comes to the attention of Valentine Clement, Earl of Brede. Not the best story in the series but still enjoyable. Fanny learns that her love for Rian really is that of a sister for a brother as she falls in love with Brede.
The Return of the Prodigal by Kasey Michaels (Romney Marsh book 6) *B* This is Rian's story. After he's wounded, he's cared for by the daughter of the Becket's enemy, Edmund Beales. She helps him escape her father. I appreciated her waffling between wanting to do what her father wants because she craves his love and doing what she can to help Rian with whom she has fallen in love. Lots of push me-pull me in this.
Becket's Last Stand by Kasey Michaels (Romney Marsh book 7) *B* This is both Callie and Court's book. She was given into his care by her mother just before her mother was killed and Court has watched over her ever since. She's all grown up now and it's a little hard for him to make the transition. Everyone in the family has assumed they would eventually be a couple when Callie became a woman, even Callie, so it's just a matter of convincing Court. Not really much of a romance but a terrific end to the series.
White Lies by Jayne Ann Krentz *A*(Arcane Society contemporary) Clare is a level 10 sensitive who can tell if a person is telling the truth or not. Kinda tough to have a relationship when you can tell if your lover is lying. She meets up with Jake who is a level 10 hunter. After I started this (picked it up at the library) I realized I'd already read it, but it was a treat reading it again.
Second Sight by Amanda Quick *A* (Arcane Society historical) Venetia meets Gabriel at the Arcane House when she's hired to photograph the artifact collection. She can see auras, he is a preternatural hunter.
The Third Circle by Amanda Quick *A* (Arcane Society historical) Leona is a gifted crystal worker who runs into Thaddeus when they are both trying to steal the aurora stone and encounter a murdered woman. Thaddeus can hypnotize people. Leona insists the crystal has belonged to her family for generations; Thaddeus insists it belongs to the Arcane Society and needs to be in a safe place. They are playing a cat and mouse game with a hunter who enjoys killing women.
Sizzle and Burn by Jayne Ann Krentz *B* (Arcane Society contemporary) Maybe I'm getting burned out on JAK, but this didn't seem to have the intensity between Zack and Raine that I'd come to expect from the other Arcane Society novels. The mystery to be solved wasn't particularly riveting either. I like this world that JAK has built but this story seemed to be lacking something.
Finding Ian by Stella Cameron *AA* This was published in 2001 but I just picked it up at the library. Wow, what an emotional story. Years ago, when Byron Frazer's wife died in childbirth, he chose to allow the boy to be adopted. Now those adoptive parents are dead and the boy has been sent to England to live with relatives he's never met. Byron visits England to make sure the boy is in good hands. But while he's there he meets a young woman, Jade Perron, who makes him think he could love again. He also gets to know the boy and decides he wants to be part of his life. Although the author didn't capture the cadence and speech of Cornwall, she certainly brought to life the connections in a small town and how everyone knows everyone else's business. Everyone is given depth and texture, not just the main characters. Jade's struggle with her dad's chauvinism, her aunt's struggle to be there for Ian, Byron's agonizing over his past and how to be there for Ian in the future are all dealt with compassionately.
Tall, Dark and Texan by Jodi Thomas *A* This is a historical western. I admit I do enjoy Jodi Thomas's stories. This one is about a young, timid widow who ends up on a ranch with a bear of a man. Jessie's not frightened of him, which puts her one up on everyone in town. The reason is that she had corresponded with him for many years when she ran a bookstore. Teagan always thought he was writing to a man since she signed the letters with her husband's name. Now she needs a safe place and decided Teagan would be just that. I loved the scenes between Teagan and her little girls. He doesn't really know what to do with all of them, however. It's a delight watching them grow into a family.
Double Fantasy by Cheryl Holt *B* Two romances in one story about Jack and Jamie who were twins.
To Wed a Wicked Prince by Jane Feather *B* The wicked prince was a Russian double agent whose mother had been English.
Autumn Lover by Elizabeth Lowell *B* Wonderful story but really wanted to smack Hunter upside the head. He never remembered that Elyssa was NOT like his first wife, she WASN'T spoiled and she WASN'T a flirt. He'd realize it and promptly forget. It got really annoying.
All Smiles by Stella Cameron *D* A great disappointment. After reading Finding Ian I expected some powerful emotional writing. As much as I like regency era romance, this was not very compelling.
Marrying Walker McKay by Lori Copeland *C* It was just OK but had too many head-banging moments for me to recommend. Plot setup was so convoluted and outrageous as to be unbelievable.
Star Bright by Catherine Anderson *B* Rainie escapes her abusive husband and Parker teaches her to love and trust again. There was a lot of buzz about the overuse of Catholic references. Personally I liked them and felt they added depth to Parker. I'm not really a fan of stories about abused women running from abusive men because I know they will always be found and it's gonna be scary - Play Misty For Me scary.
A Very Special Delivery by Linda Goodnight A free ebook from Harlequin - Steeple Hill. Since my faith is so important to me I thought I might enjoy Steeple Hill. Meh, not so much, if this is anything to go by.
Baby Bonanza by Maureen Child Another free ebook from Harlequin. A rich man discovers he's the father of twins. Another formula I don't usually read, but I enjoyed this one. Many moments when the emotion hit me in the gut so hard I flushed, so I'd give it a B, maybe an A. I'll definitely look for more by Maureen Child.
Tender Secrets by Ann Christopher - One of my favorite authors. As the story began I wasn't sure I was going to like this one: a reporter all set to do an expose on the family who ruined her father and sent him on the road to self destruction. I should have known the author would make the characters so strong and deep that I'd get sucked in. *A*